Blind Boys of Alabama

I'll Find a Way (Sony Masterworks)

ACL Music Fest 2013 Friday Reviews

Blind Boys of Alabama

I'll Find a Way (Sony Masterworks)

Formed at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind the same year Germany invaded Poland, the Blind Boys of Alabama are nothing short of an American institution. The gospel legends spent four days holed up in a snow-covered Wisconsin cabin with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver for I'll Find a Way. Vernon hand-picked the band and a mix of traditional hymns, originals, and secular covers. Only two founding members of the Blind Boys survive – Jimmy Carter and Clarence Fountain, who, unable to travel, recorded his rumbling baritone in absentia – but the heavenly falsetto of newest member Paul Beasley becomes a revelation on "Take Me to the Water." The Blind Boys are oddly relegated to the background of the Sam Amidon-assisted "I Am Not Waiting Anymore," making it barely distinguishable from the indie-folk currently blanketing AAA radio, but the island groove of "I've Been Searching" is a delightful surprise with Tune-Yards' Merrill Garbus helping channel the Jamaican harmony trios of the Sixties. Vernon himself teams up with Carter on Bob Dylan's "Every Grain of Sand," while Austin's Patty Griffin helps raise the roof on the righteous soul clap of closer "Jubilee." After nearly 75 years the Blind Boys still exude amazing grace. (4:30pm, Zilker Tent stage)

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